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Book Review: Living the Dream by Trevor Pavitt

Living The Dream Cover

Pavitt.T (2007) Living the Dream self published (?) ISBN: 978 1 84753 757 7

In the preface to my copy of Living the Dream author Trevor Pavitt writes:

To pass through a deeply wooded cutting on a May morning in England, with the sun reflecting off the mantle of trees, the slightest touch of mist still clinging to the surface of the canal and a heron in slow-motion ahead of the boat is one of life’s supreme pleasures.

The paragraph shows that Pavitt can write a well-turned phrase, and I was looking forward to reading more. I hoped the lyricism would continue, and I’d get under-the-skin of his motivation and passion. It didn’t. And after reading over 300 pages I’m not sure I know Trevor Pavitt any more clearly than before.

In many ways the book runs counter to the recent trend in boating literature for highly entertaining, incident-strewn, semi-comic biography – the kind of thing that’s written so well by Steve Hayward or Terry Darlington. What you get here is more an unvarnished account of reality, one that reflects the fact that life is often a dull procession of aches & pains, walking the dog and shopping trips, however I’m not sure if there’s enough material in that reality to create a entire book around.

Many entries are drawn from the logs, and later the blog, Pavitt kept over the 10 years spent building the ‘Lady Elgar’ and live-aboarding; arguably the entries would read well as an illustrated blog, but when read as a book they rapidly become repetitive, and even mundane.

I skipped a lot of pages.

I’d have liked to have seen more of the linking anecdotes between the diary entries, and for Pavitt to have drawn out from the daily details the themes and issue that dominated his life afloat.

Hundreds had already ‘lived the dream’ before Pavitt started in 1994, and I should think thousands have done so since. Most of them seem to have done a lot more cruising than him, and much of his ten years afloat seems to have been spent in working on the boat on his High Line mooring down the Slough Arm. For me, this diminished the opportunity for him to look beyond the canals, the boat and his immediate family; and out into the wider world as viewed from a boat.

Ultimately I found Living the Dream to be a  ‘static caravan’ of a read. It’s a near-miss, as there are occasional hints of more lively writing. If it’d been half the size and more a reflection upon 10 years boating based around the logs and less a logbook inflated into a linear book it would perhaps have been a more satisfying read.

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